September 27NextPrevious   

“Deep ecology and Gandhi”–Daily Metta

“I want to realize brotherhood and identify not merely with the beings called human, but I want to realize identify with all life, even with such beings that crawl on the earth.”

-–Gandhi (Mahatma, Vol. 2)

When I read these words of Mahatma Gandhi, I cannot help but think of Arne Naess, the Norwegian philosopher and environmentalist who is credited with coining the term “deep ecology.” Particularly because Naess considered himself, in a certain measure, a Gandhian, or rather, someone attempting to draw from Gandhiji’s example in simplicity, nonviolence and reverence for life. (Those who point out that Gandhi was not an environmentalist per se should explore in more depth his relationship in inspiring modern environmental movements…there are many wonderful connections there.) Deep ecology is a form of evidence-based systems thinking that shows that life is an interconnected web, instead of separate silos from one life form to the next; and it is also a delicate balance, where the extinction of one species due to human causes can upset the well-being of an entire eco-system, returning to bear upon human survival as well. Nothing exists without everything else!

Naess, to complicate matters a bit, discusses what this looks like in practice, and he takes the example of finding venomous snakes around a children’s playground. Should we not get rid of the snakes to protect the lives of the children? His answer was, certainly, and Gandhi would also agree with this. But he takes it a step further, which we all must learn to do: we have to ask ourselves why we would build a playground in an area where there could be venomous snakes in the first place. They have a right to life as much as we do, and it is important to understand the ecosystems in which we live and play. The more we know, the better decisions we can make about how to maintain and preserve that balance.

After all, why should life stop at the borders of human flesh? Why should we maintain such an alienation? Realizing our identity with all life not only helps us to understand other forms of life better, it ultimately draws out of us an understanding of our own.

Experiment in Nonviolence

Explore the ecosystem of your neighborhood and town. Is human life in balance with other forms of nature? What would need to change first to help create a greater balance?

The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299